The nature of transgenderism has been a subject of debate for a long time. Recently, some states have passed laws to regulate which restrooms that a person can legally use. Members of the LGBT community have decried these laws as discriminatory. While the debate continues between supporters and critics, it is important to know the facts of this group.
Part of the debate stems from some groups who consider transgenderism as being cultural and is a lifestyle choice. People who are transgender claim that it is not a lifestyle choice and that they are born into it. Another part of the debate stems from harassment and aggression directed at transgender people. As of 2015, 16.8% of transgender students are physically assaulted and 32.1% experience harassment.
One myth that is common is that transgender people are homosexual. The terms “transgender” and “sexual orientation” do not mean that same thing and the concepts are independent of each other. Transgender references the gender with which the person identifies. Another myth is that “gender” and “sex” are interchangeable terms. In this context, they are not. Gender refers to the state of being male or female which can be different from a person’s biological sex.
The American Psychiatric Association previously called transgenderism “Gender identity disorder” but has since changed it to “Gender dysphoria.” This change was to reflect the distress that transgender people experience. The most common symptoms experienced by transgender people is depression and anxiety that can be attributed to either being in a minority group or being subject to harassment and aggression. Suicide is a major concern for transgender people (41% attempt at some point in their life). At times, the need to affirm gender identity leads to a transgender person to transition.
Not all transgender people attempt to transition to the gender with which they identify. Some attempt a major change by identifying and presenting as much as possible as a member of the other sex. These major attempts can use hormones and surgery to make a person more masculine or feminine. In some cases, the change can be part-time or even a partial change.
Transsexualism, the changing of one’s body through surgery, has not been proven to address psychological symptoms. Many of the studies on the topic have been subjective and lacking controls. In one follow-up study, it was found that transsexuals have significantly higher rate of suicide and mortality compared to controls (even after accounting for baseline rates of depression and suicide).
The concept of gender is considered to be a social construct by LGBT groups and that people can freely move between genders to arrive at their true gender. These groups reject the idea that gender identity is binary (either male or female).
The counter argument to these views is that transgenderism is a cultural movement that is celebrated by the media and that those who disagree are demonized. The supporters of this view have noted that LGBT messaging in pop culture is very strong and creates unquestioning conformity. There are claims that even the medical community has been compromised by “political correctness.”
Neuroscience research suggests that gender identity may exist on a spectrum and that Gender dysphoria is well within the range of individual variation. MRI scans have shown that brains of transgender people had structural similarities to members of the sex with which they identify. The results this research implies that there might be a neurological basis.
Studies have also revealed that transgenderism is not the result of a hormonal imbalance. People who identify as transgender have the normal levels of sex hormones that is consistent with that of their biological sex.
One of the biggest areas of controversy is the topic of children and adolescents who experience Gender dysphoria. Due to fear of reprisal from the LGBT community, many professionals are reluctant to speak on record about the topic.
Like most aspects of child and adolescent behavior, experiences of gender dysphoria is characterized by flux. Several studies have shown most children will no longer experience gender dysphoria as they reach maturity. These studies suggest that gender dysphoria in children is highly unstable and likely to change. In adolescents, most Gender dysphoric teens will continue to experience Gender dysphoria. Thus, it is unlikely to change.
On the other hand, some people pose the counter argument that to delay treatment is to consign the child to psychological suffering. These groups recommend using drugs to delay the onset of puberty until the age of 16. At that time, proceed to gender reassignment if Gender dysphoria persists. Supporters of this point of view accuse clinicians who opt for the wait-and-see approach of imposing societal values.
One theory that has been posed by a Dr. Kenneth Zucker is that children that experience Gender dysphoria may actually be suffering from autism. He claims that these children may be getting obsessed or fixated on gender. He notes that children who experience Gender dysphoria are seven times more likely to be on the autistic spectrum.
References and Further Reading
- Gender dysphoria
- Causes of transsexuality
- Being Transgender Is Not a Mental Disorder: Study
- The Psychology of Transgender
- How Changeable Is Gender?
- Children who believe they are transgender ‘could have autism’, says controversial expert
- Being Transgender Has Nothing to Do with Hormonal Imbalance
- Transgender Research: The Role of Biology in Gender Identity Development
- Is There Something Unique about the Transgender Brain?
- The Cult Of Transgender